Calm yourselves people! I know the season starts on Sunday but there is still time for a little preview of the women’s competition. These kinds of seasons only come around every four years so there is a lot to get excited about and there will be a lot of focus on the Olympic Games in February. However there is still the small matter of the World Cup Tour to get on with first.
This year we find ourselves kicking off in Oestersund again and unlike last year I am hoping it will throw up some unexpected results. Tora Berger won all 3 races and went on to dominate the entire season. Obviously she is again the favourite to do so and to win medals in Sochi. While I am a huge fan of Berger and her amazing achievements I would like to see the prizes shared around a bit!
So who can we expect to challenge her in her final season? Well last year’s runner up Darya Domracheva could certainly give her a run for her money. A little more consistency for Dasha would really give Tora something to worry about. Veteran Andrea Henkel showed that age is no barrier to success with a fantastic season last year and Zaitseva also has a wealth of experience and a home Olympics to motivate her.
Don’t forget the young guns who are hot on Berger’s heels. A great end of season from Soukalova made a lot of people sit up and take notice of her and of course Germany’s Miriam Gossner is still a contender despite her pre-season injury problems. If that isn’t enough consider the double pronged attack from the Semerenko twins,and not forgetting their Ukrainian colleague Pidhrushna. Then there is Kuzmina, Mäkäräinen, Dorin Habert and Teja Gregorin to throw into the mix. Not to mention the successors to the Norwegian throne Synnøve Solemdal and Ann Kristin Flatland.
There is a lot of talent in women’s biathlon at the moment. It’s going to be a great season to follow and somehow I don’t think Berger will have it all her own way this time around. The unpredictable nature of the sport due to the shooting element means that nobody quite knows what’s going to happen and this year has the potential to be one of the best yet. I suggest you sit back and enjoy the fireworks – 2013/14 is going to be cracker!
Good luck ladies!
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Unsurprisingly born on the same day, the 18th of January 1986, Ukrainian twins Valentyna Oleksandrivna Semerenko and Viktoriya Oleksandrivna Semerenko have been on the World Cup for over 8 years. Better known as Valj and Vita the ladies from Sumy have confused many of us over the years. Sometimes they have different coloured hair but dressed in the Ukrainian biathlon suits and hats it’s hard to tell them apart.
However as results show they are not exactly the same in terms of biathlon. They have the same results in the relay competition (obviously!) where they compete together but what about their individual performances? Vita has three bronze medals in individual events to Valj’s one. She has also finished second on the podium three times whereas her sister has only managed third place as her best result. Having said that it was Valj who won an individual bronze in last year’s World Championships in Nove Mesto in the 15km.
It must be a bit strange racing against your own twin. There are many examples of siblings who compete against each other in biathlon but twins have a different kind of bond. Normally you want to give all the support you can to your family members but then you have to turn around and hope that you beat them. That’s not so easy for a twin. They may have different personalities but I imagine physically they are very similar so out skiing each other could be a problem. Looking at the shooting results Vita seems to have the edge which may explain her slightly greater success. However I am sure they enjoy having each other around for support and training.
The Olympics are close to home for the girls and so I am sure they will enjoy great support there. There is no reason why they should not perform well in Sochi and come away with a few medals. The relay is probably their best shot at gold having finished second so many times but the Norwegian and Russian teams will be particularly difficult to beat. They are both capable of collecting some medals in the individual events too.
Of course what they should have done at the beginning of their career was not to tell anyone they were twins and one could do the Sprint event and next day the other could have done the Pursuit. Or they could have swapped over half way through the race when there are fewer cameras out on the forest tracks! Only I have such an unscrupulous mind however so the other biathletes will have to watch out for double trouble this season!
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Biathlon is unique in the numbers of siblings who compete in the sport. You can find examples of other brothers and sisters competing in the same sport like the Williams sisters and Murray brothers in tennis, the Marquez and Espargaro brothers in Moto GP and the Ferdinand and Neville brothers in football and in cross-country skiing we have the Cologna and Northug brothers too.
However for the sheer volume of siblings competing together I don’t think any other sport can compete with biathlon. Currently we have the Fourcade brothers, the Windisch brothers, the 3 Gasparin sisters, the Bø brothers, Shipulin and Kuzmina, and even the Semerenko twins from the Ukraine to name but a few. Not forgetting top brother and sister combination Lars and Tora Berger.
Why is this? Several reasons come to mind. Firstly the family. If you grow up in family who enjoy winter sports or in an area where winter sports are popular then of course the chances of all the children taking part are greater. Secondly if you have an older sibling who is good at a sport then maybe the younger child would like to copy them or maybe it’s just easier to take all the kids to the same training lessons. Another reason is that if for example if the children are twins or very similar in physique or character it may be that they are all suited to excelling in the same sport. Whatever the reasons are biathlon seems to have benefited from the amount of siblings taking part in the sport. The Fourcades and Bergers in particular have been very successful.
But what is it like competing against your brother or sister? On the plus side you have someone you know very well who you can train and travel with. Biathletes spend a lot of time away from home and it’s nice to take your family with you. You have a great support system on hand, someone who knows when to help you or to leave you alone. There is also an increased sense of competition as everyone loves to beat their brother or sister at something so it can be a great motivator. The relays provide an opportunity to compete together and I can imagine it would be an amazing feeling to win a gold medal with a member of your family.
On the other hand you have to spend a lot of time together and depending on how good your relationship is that could be a strain. It’s also a lot easier to take out feelings of frustration on your family rather than your teammates which could cause problems both for your family and the team. There is always one sibling who will do better than the other one. For a brother and sister this wouldn’t cause too many problems as they are not competing directly against each other. But what about brothers or sisters? Martin Fourcade is more successful than Simon but whenever they are on the podium together Simon has always finished ahead of his brother. Something he seems extremely happy about! It cannot be easy to see a sibling, especially a younger one, outperform you in a sport that you did first.
Personally I like the fact that there are so many siblings in Biathlon. It gives the sport a family feel and whether you are successful or not it’s all relative – brothers and sisters are for life not just for biathlon!